Editorial: Surveillance reforms must set right tone

  • Posted: Wednesday, July 24, 2013 8:16 a.m.

Changing the way the National Security Agency operates is vital. The widespread spying that’s been perpetrated for years outside of any real public scrutiny clearly shows us reforms are necessary, but the agency’s mission remains crucial.

Our nation’s defense would be lacerated without systematic surveillance that keeps an eye on the nefarious elements of our society.

However, documents leaked by former government contractor Edward Snowden indicate the agency’s surveillance has been far from methodical, with phone records and emails indiscriminately collected from millions of unknowing Americans.

Amendments introduced as part of legislation in the U.S. House would bar the agency from collecting records unless the individual is the subject of an ongoing investigation. Another amendment would prohibit funds to the agency to target a U.S. citizen or to acquire and store the content of a person’s communications.

The proposals have garnered bipartisan support from both liberal Democrats and Tea Party conservatives because of fears of invasion of privacy. However, any proposed changes must not undermine our nation’s anti-terrorism efforts by deflating our surveillance programs. Any measure proposing increased oversight or threats of lost funding should be balanced with the growing need for national security in the complexity of the 21st century.

The White House, Congress and the agency itself must find the right balance in the debate over privacy and security. It’s becoming evident that consumers are increasingly weary of data tracking. Computer users are strengthening their passwords, while consumers are even changing their buying habits, using cash over more trackable credit card purchases.

Proper intelligence can help thwart devastating attacks on our soil, saving lives and ensuring our national safety. But casting such an excessively wide net to collect personal information draws a dark and disturbing shadow over our national security efforts.

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